The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of London is the legal title for the Mayor of (and head of) the City of London Corporation. The Lord Mayor of London is to be distinguished from the Mayor of London; the former is an officer only of the City of London, while the Mayor of London is the Mayor of Greater London and as such governs a much larger area. Within the City of London, the Lord Mayor has precedence over other individuals and has various special powers, rights and privileges.
In 2006 the Corporation of London changed its name to the City of London. At the same the generally used title of the Lord Mayor of London became the The Lord Mayor of the City of London partly to avoid confusion with the Mayor of London. However, the legal title remains the Lord Mayor of London.
The Lord Mayor is elected each year at Michaelmas 'Common Hall', and takes office on the Friday before the second Saturday in November, at 'The Silent Ceremony'. On the day after taking office, the Lord Mayor's Show is held; the Lord Mayor, preceded by a procession, travels to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, Westminster to swear allegiance to the Sovereign in the presence of the judges of the High Court.
The Lord Mayor's main role is, as it has been for centuries, to represent, support and promote the businesses and the people of the City of London. Today, these businesses are mainly in the financial sector and the Lord Mayor is seen as the champion of the entire UK-based financial sector regardless of ownership and location within the country. As head of the Corporation of the City of London, the Lord Mayor is the key spokesman for the local authority and also has important ceremonial and social responsibilities. He is apolitical (namely he does not represent a political party) and this gives added credibility at home and abroad when representing the financial sector. He gives over 800 speeches in the year and spends over 100 days abroad in some 22 countries. The Lord Mayor of the City of London is also the chancellor of the City University of London.
A woman who holds the office is also known as a Lord Mayor. A male Lord Mayor's wife is known as a Lady Mayoress; no equivalent privilege exists for a female Lord Mayor's husband. A female Lord Mayor or unmarried male one may appoint a female consort, usually a fellow councillor, to the role of Lady Mayoress. In speech, a Lord Mayor is referred to as "My Lord Mayor", and a Lady Mayoress as "My Lady Mayoress".
It was once customary for Lord Mayors to be created knights upon taking office and baronets upon retirement, unless they held those titles already. The custom was applied inconsistently from the sixteenth until the nineteenth centuries; creations became more regular from 1889 onwards. From 1964 onwards, the regular creation of hereditary dignities such as baronetcies ceased, but Lord Mayors continued to be granted knighthoods (usually of the rank of Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire) until 1993. Since 1993, Lord Mayors have not received any automatic honours upon appointment; instead, they have been created Knights Bachelor upon retirement. Furthermore, when foreign heads of state visit the United Kingdom, they sometimes confer honors on the Lord Mayor. For example, in 2001, David Howard was created a Grand Cordon, First Class, of the Order of Independence of Jordan following the state visit of King Abdullah II.
Lord Mayors are elected for one-year terms; by custom, they do not serve more than one consecutive term now. Numerous individuals have served multiple terms in office, but only one man has served six terms; Hamo de Chigwell (1319, 1321, 1322, 1323, 1325 and 1327). Four have served four terms; Nicholas de Farndone (1308, 1313, 1320 and 1323), Richard ('Dick') Whittington (1397, 1398, 1406 and 1419)and John de Pulteney (1330, 1331, 1333 and 1336). The last individual to serve multiple terms was Robert Fowler (elected in 1883 and in 1885).
Dame Mary Donaldson, elected in 1983, is the only woman to have held the office thus far. Almost 700 people have served as Lord Mayor.
The Lord Mayor is elected by Common Hall, all Liverymen of the City's Livery Companies. Common Hall is summoned by the sitting Lord Mayor; it meets at Guildhall on Michaelmas Day (29 September) or on the closest weekday. Voting is by show of hands; if, however, any liveryman so demands, balloting is held a fortnight later.
Since 1385, prior service as Sheriff has been mandatory for election to the Lord Mayoralty. Two Sheriffs are selected annually by Common Hall, which meets on Midsummer's Day for the purpose. By an ordinance of 1435, the Lord Mayor must be chosen from amongst the Aldermen of the City of London. The people of each of the city's 25 wards select one alderman, who formerly held office for life or until resignation. Now each alderman must submit himself for re-election at least once in every six years. An individual elected Lord Mayor need not relinquish membership of the Court of Aldermen.
The Lord Mayor is then sworn in November, on the day before the Lord Mayor's Show (see below). The ceremony is known as the "Silent Ceremony" because, aside from a short declaration by the incoming Lord Mayor, no speeches are made. At Guildhall, the outgoing Lord Mayor transfers the mayoral insignia—the Seal, the Purse, the Sword and the Mace—to the incoming Lord Mayor.
On the day after being sworn in, the Lord Mayor participates in a procession from the City of London to the Royal Courts of Justice in the City of Westminster, where the Lord Mayor swears his allegiance to the Crown. This procession is known as the "Lord Mayor's Show" and is one of the longest established and best known annual events in London. The Lord Mayor travels in a State Coach that was built in 1757 at a cost of £1,065.0s.3d. (over £120,000 in modern terms). In its modern form, it is a fairly light hearted combination of traditional British pageantry and elements of carnival. Since 1959 it has been held on the second Saturday in November. Participants include the Livery Companies, bands and members of the military, charities and schools. In the evening, a fireworks display is held.
As noted earlier, the main role of the Lord Mayor is to represent, support and promote the financial, maritime and other business services industry in the UK. He undertakes this as head of the City of London Corporation and, during his year, hosts visiting foreign Ministers, businesmen and dignitaries; furthermore, he conducts several foreign visits of his own in order to promote the British financial sector.
Banquets hosted by the Lord Mayor often serve as opportunities for senior Government figures to make major speeches. At the Lord Mayor's Banquet (held on the Monday after the Lord Mayor's Show), the Prime Minister delivers the keynote address. At the Banker's Dinner in June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivers a speech known as the Mansion House Speech, which takes its name from the Lord Mayor's residence. At the Easter Banquet, which is also hosted at Mansion House, a speech is delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
The Lord Mayor performs numerous other functions. He serves as the Chief Magistrate of the City of London, Admiral of the Port of London, Chancellor of City University, President of Gresham College, President of City of London Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, and Trustee of St Paul's Cathedral. The Lord Mayor is also the head of the Commission of Lieutenancy, which represents the Sovereign in the City of London (other counties usually have Lord Lieutenants, as opposed to Commissions), and annually attends the Treloar Trust (named after Sir William Treloar, Lord Mayor in 1906), in Hampshire. Treloar Trust runs two educational sites for disabled children, a school and college.
The residence of the Lord Mayor is known as Mansion House. The creation of the residence was considered after the Great Fire of London (1666), but construction did not commence until 1739. It was first occupied by a Lord Mayor in 1752, when Sir Crispin Gascoigne took up his residence in it.
It is sometimes asserted that the Lord Mayor may exclude the Sovereign from the City of London. The legend is based on the misinterpretation of the ceremony observed each time the Sovereign enters the City. At Temple Bar the Lord Mayor presents the City's pearl-encrusted Sword of State to the Sovereign as a symbol of the latter's overlordship. The Sovereign does not, as is often purported, wait for the Lord Mayor's permission to enter the City.
The importance of the office is reflected by the composition of the Accession Council, a body which proclaims the accession of new Sovereigns. The Council includes the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London, as well as the Lords Spiritual, Lords Temporal and Privy Counsellors. At the coronation banquet which followed, the Lord Mayor of the City of London had the right to assist the royal butler. The same privilege is held by the Lord Mayor of Oxford; the Mayor of Winchester may assist the royal cook. Such privileges have not been exercised since 1821, when the last coronation banquet (commemorating the coronation of George IV) was held.
The Lord Mayor of the City of London is entitled to wear the Collar of Esses, a chain of 28 golden emblems, each in the shape of the letter S (the reason for which is unclear). It is believed that the Collar now used by the Lord Mayor once belonged to Sir Thomas More, who wore it as a symbol of office as Lord Chancellor (More was never mayor) and was seized from him upon his execution in 1535. The only other officers who may wear Collars of Esses are the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the Kings and Heralds of Arms, and Serjeants-at-Arms.